Okay, so maybe we were too quick to hype up Sam Darnold as the savior of the Jets. Sorry about that. But now we’ve got another story about a hot young QB who just might be turning his team around: Baker Mayfield of the Cleveland Browns.
Last Thursday night, the Browns ended a dry spell that’s been plaguing the team since Christmas Eve 2016. After near victories in Week 1 and Week 2, the Browns finally won a game, sending the city of Cleveland into a euphoric late-night celebration with their 21-17 victory over the Jets. After 635 days without a win, the Browns finally got one.
But it was rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield who – in his first NFL appearance – became the talk of the night. After veteran QB left Tyrod Taylor left the game with a concussion in the second quarter, Mayfield took the field, much to the delight of Browns fans who might have otherwise vacated their seats at halftime. He kept fans around the nation watching too. This Browns-Jets game was the most watched, highest-rated Thursday night game since December 2015. Over 8.6 million viewers watched as Mayfield made his professional debut, leading the Browns to overcome a double-digit deficit in the second half to finally get that elusive W.
And with this changing of the guard, Cleveland fans are hoping their team has reached a turning point. Because, dang, winning feels good.
Head Coach Hue Jackson said, “Everybody wants to make this a big moment. Winning is outstanding, but we plan on doing this more. This is just the start of it, I truly believe, for this football team… Am I excited about tonight? Oh, my gosh, are you kidding me? I’m tired of all of the jokes. I’m tired of all of the things being said. You try to watch TV. You try to miss a channel, but then there is, ‘It’s been 600 and some days since the Browns have won.’ We’ve been the brunt of jokes, the brunt of everything. I get it and we’ve owned that. We deserve that, but hopefully, maybe people will start seeing that things are going to change here.”
— NFL Media (@NFLMedia) September 21, 2018
Starting Browns quarterback Tyrod Taylor proved ineffective in the first two quarters against the Jets on Thursday, going only 4 for 14 and 19 yards, getting sacked three times, and missing several open throws. After his injury, that’s when number-one draft pick Mayfield came in looking like the franchise quarterback the Browns had been dreaming of. The Heisman winner out of Oklahoma completed 17 of 23 passes for 201 yards and even caught a 2-point conversion pass from Jarvis Landry in the end zone – a tricky little play by the Browns.
Before the game even ended, ticket orders started to pour in for the Browns and it became clear that Bakermania was in session. Orders continued for two hours after the win, with fans purchasing tickets for both home and away games. Mayfield jerseys started selling like hotcakes.
The 23-year-old told fans that his team didn’t plan on stopping here, saying, “Cleveland deserves a win, but we’re not done yet. Just enjoy it. We deserve it, but at the same time we’re just getting started.”
Of course, one player can’t do it alone. The Browns defense also looked excellent on Thursday night, with 3 turnovers against the Jets and 11 overall this season, compared to the total of 13 they had all last season. Myles Garrett and Denzel Ward are playmakers who deserve a lot of credit for this win.
Wide receiver Jarvis Landry caught eight passes and Carlos Hyde scored two touchdowns, racking up 103 yards each.
It’s clear this new, young QB complements the team. Mayfield came in while the Browns were down 14-0 and immediately started completing passes. Experts are denying any obvious comparisons to Johnny Manziel – the hyped-up Heisman winner who came in and didn’t prepare or study at all during his two underwhelming seasons with the Browns. Mayfield, however, performed impressively at training camp and in the preseason. He’s in command of the offense and he’s got the respect of his teammates. Not only that, he’s likable. Mayfield might just be one of the most charismatic new players in the NFL, cheekily asking in the post-game press conference, “Did they unlock those Bud Light things?”
Even Saints quarterback Drew Brees noticed his aptitude, saying last week (before the Jets game), “I think he can be a lot better than me. He’s got all the tools. He’s more athletic. He probably can run around better. He’s got a stronger arm.”
Still, Coach Jackson won’t name Mayfield as the Browns’ new starting quarterback just yet, saying he still needs to watch the tape. Don’t worry, folks on social media gave him plenty of abuse for that…
I would say that film session shouldn’t take too long https://t.co/hxEiVzTa69
— Brian Snow (@BSnow247) September 21, 2018
But let’s not get too excited yet, shall we? Or let’s do. Either way, we’re excited to see if Mayfield will start next weekend and whether he’ll continue to wow fans and give Cleveland the quarterback they’ve been waiting for.
And yes, they did unlock those Bud Light things.